How to Play Poker
Poker is a pretty social affair, notwithstanding that you are trying to reveal as little to your mates as possible about your hand of cards, or that the betting can become as heated as the game itself.
Before getting started, there are a few things you need to agree on. Firstly, the type of game: 5-card draw is the standard, so we will be dealing mostly with that, but the hands themselves remain mostly the same throughout. Aces are usually high, but can also be worth just 1, so ensure that everyone knows which value applies. Wild cards and jokers are also negotiable, so their role and value should be decided upon before starting.
Place bets: the ante is the minimum buy-in per hand, and is put in before you’ve seen your cards. If you want to “up the ante”, be sure that you aren’t losing friends in doing so!
The dealer shuffles, and deals five cards to every player, starting with the one to his or her left: the remaining cards are placed in the middle of the table. Usually, players take turns to be the dealer, or it is simply given to the best shuffler in the group.
Having received your cards, check whether you have been dealt a good hand: be careful not to react in any way, though! This can affect the betting of your opponents, and this is where the psychology of poker comes in. Of course, if it is truly a bad hand, you may want to fold now, before the betting starts. You will lose the ante, but maybe the next hand will win it all back for you.
You need to familiarise yourself with the variations of a winning hand. Consider downloading a wallchart or sheet to study: it will definitely speed up the game, and add to your enjoyment thereof. Pairs are good, but are beaten by two pairs, or three of a kind: straights or runs are even better. A flush might beat these, but a straight flush takes the win, unless someone else has been poker-facedly accumulating a royal flush. If all else fails, the highest card in any hand wins, but it is unlikely that nobody at the table will have any combinations.
Go All In
Having received your cards, a round of betting takes place: do you want to go all-in on a bad hand, and hope that the others fold, nervously, or do you cautiously raise the stakes, so that nobody guesses that you have five of a kind? Or any variations thereof, of course: perhaps you’re bluffing, or perhaps that tell-tale smile holds the key. At this point, you can exchange up to three cards, by placing these face-down on the table, and receiving replacements from the dealer. Another round of betting takes place, and then, it’s time to show your hand. If you’ve noticed how many poker references have made their way into everyday speech, you’re the perceptive sort of player who is really going to thrive at this!